Skip to main content

Remarks by President John J. DeGioia

Faculty Convocation -- Fall 2010

Lohrfink Auditorium
Georgetown University
October 20, 2010

Welcome everyone. It is a pleasure to be with you this afternoon and I wish to express my most sincere congratulations to our newly tenured and promoted colleagues.

Each Fall and each Spring we come together. We take time out of our very intense semesters and take these very precious moments and reflect on the nature of our work together. We share a “way of life.” Every October, in this event, and every March in our Spring Convocation we step out of our routines and serve as witnesses to one another about that which matters most about our way of life.

In recent years we have explored the impact of globalization with Rafael Rangel and Nicholas Boyle; we have explored the changing context for science with Shirley Ann Jackson; we have explored the humanities with Edward Hirsch; and liberal education with Diana Chapman Walsh. We have explored the responsibilities of the university in our changing world with Jill Ker Conway.

This is an extraordinary time for higher education. The forces of globalization, the impact of new technologies, the financial challenges facing our nation, the changing place of America in our world – all require our engagement. We enjoy a very privileged place in our world. We work alongside the most talented colleagues one can imagine. We teach some of the world’s most gifted young people. We do so in a city of great vitality and at a university shaped by one of the greatest traditions of education the world has ever known.

We try to bring out the very best in one another. We seek to play a role in the formation of our students who will one day assume positions of leadership throughout our world. We begin every semester seeking to ensure it will be the very best semester we can possibly provide to them.

And we know that we are living in a time of unprecedented change. Facebook was founded in 2004 and today, there are more than 500 million active users, spending a total of 700 billion minutes per month on the site. 1 Today, twenty hours of video are uploaded to youtube every minute. 2 That’s over 28,000 hours of new video content each day.

Between 2003 and 2009, we’ve seen the number of our students studying abroad in credit-bearing programs increase by: 3 
•392% in China
•521% in Africa
•150% in the Middle East
•And 450% percent in India

All of this gives rise to a set of tensions that define our moment. I have the privilege this Fall to be teaching an Ignatius Seminar for Chet Gillis in the College. The focus of the course is to identify and explore a group of tensions that are present in the contemporary academy. We are wrestling with tensions like the pursuit of knowledge for its own sake or for more practical or instrumental purposes; the cultivation of the intellect and the formation of character; the idea of social construction and the conviction that we can discover the inherent structure in our world; the significance of place and the potential of new technologies.

Introduction of videos

Undoubtedly, universities will continue to wrestle with these tensions and new tensions as new communication and collaboration technologies proliferate and impact our daily lives. We have all been touched by these changes and challenges in our own research and teaching practices. As part of our program today, we have a few short videos to show you of our faculty reflecting on this new academic context—a context that demands we are not only interdisciplinary and collaborative…but globally focused and culturally sensitive. Our first video considers the implications of this new context on academic scholarship and what it means for our practices as researchers and academics. Let’s watch this clip now.

Video 1: The Changing Landscape for Faculty Work

The changes that our faculty have just described in response to this new global digital learning environment have impacted the ways that we engage students in the curriculum, and in the classroom—and the opportunities for engagement with partners and issues outside the traditional classroom setting. This second video looks at the ways teaching and learning have been shaped, in part, by new media, but more so by the interdisciplinary, collaborative interactions of this new information environment. How do we mediate between access to unlimited information, and the fast-speed of these new mediums, with the depth and thoughtfulness we expect from our students? What does this new technology mean for the relationship between theory and practice in the classroom? Here are some of our faculty responses.

Video 2: Critical Thought in the Digital Age

These videos are a testament to the innovative efforts by our community to provide our students with the learning environment they need to engage ethically and critically with complex world challenges. I wish to thank Randy Bass and his colleagues at CNDLS for capturing these faculty perspectives and for engaging so deeply in our university’s commitment to excellence in teaching and scholarship. I hope you will join me in congratulating the Center for New Designs in Learning and Scholarship for ten extraordinary years on campus.

We know that this conversation on innovation in the university will continue to evolve as we move forward. That is why Randy Bass and his team at CNDLS have launched an initiative Locating Integrative Knowledge to continue sharing our faculty responses to new elements of teaching and scholarship. The video clips that you just saw today, and others, have become part of a new CNDLS website, launched today, that documents the work of this initiative. There’s a handout in your program with more details.

Introduction of John Seely Brown

To further deepen our conversation on innovation, technology, and learning, we’re honored to have John Seely Brown with us this afternoon.

An innovator and strategist, accomplished author and expert on digital culture and modes of learning, we’ve asked John to join us to share his insights on teaching and innovation in light of the influence of technology in our culture. Currently, he is the independent co-chairman of the Deloitte Center for the Edge. He also serves as an Advisor to the Provost and Visiting Scholar at the University of Southern California. Just this past April, his most recent book—a collaboration with John Hagel III and Lang Davison, titled The Power of Pull: How Small Moves, Smartly Made, Can Set Big Things in Motion was published.

He’s been at the forefront of research on innovation, learning ecologies, and organizational development for more than a quarter of a century. He served for a decade as Chief Scientist at Xerox Corporation and for fifteen years as director of the Xerox PARC (Palo Alto Research Center). During this time, John’s research included considerations of complex adaptive systems, micro electrical mechanical system (MEMS) and nanotechnology. He also played a major role in founding the Institute for Research on Learning and served as its Associate Director from 1986-1990 where he and his colleagues developed new methods to understand social and lifelong learning in a variety of settings.

He is a member of the American Academy of Arts and Sciences (in the field of Computer Science), a fellow of the American Association for Artificial intelligence and a trustee of the MacArthur Foundation. Having published over 100 papers in scientific journals, he’s also authored or co-authored 5 books, including The Social Life of Information, and The Only Sustainable Edge. He’s a graduate of Brown University, with a Masters in Mathematics and a doctorate in Computer and Communication Sciences, from the University of Michigan.

John’s nuanced understanding of learning emphasizes the importance of context in producing meaning and our ability to acknowledge the periphery that surrounds our work. In a 2000 talk at the Annual Meeting of the American Society for Information Science and Technology, he concluded, “The way forward…is paradoxically not to look ahead, but to look around.” It is this perspective—that the innovative responses we seek are often produced by the interactions of our work with others—that makes John such an important voice today and we are honored to have him with us here at Georgetown.

It’s now my pleasure to invite John to the stage. And after his presentation, John and I will engage in the conversation about the changing landscape of teaching and research.


Now, as our final question, I’d like to introduce one more video. In this segment, we asked our faculty to consider the challenges that universities face in responding to the changing classroom and scholarship environment. After the video, I’ll ask you, John, what you see are the main challenges and considerations for universities moving forward.

Video 3: The Challenge of Integration

John—just to share my question again: How do you see universities changing institutionally in response to these new landscapes of learning?

Works Cited

1. "Press Room." Facebook. Accessed 10 October 2010.
2. Hefflinger, Mark. "YouTube: 20 Hours of Video Uploaded Every Minute." Pub. May 2009. Accessed 10 October 2010.
3. These numbers, provided by the Georgetown University Office of International Programs, represent the percent increase by region or country between the 2002-2003 and 2008-2009 academic years of GU graduate and undergraduate students in credit-bearing study abroad programs.

Georgetown University37th and O Streets, N.W., Washington D.C. 20057(202) 687.0100

Connect with us via: